Ben Edwards on the IBM transition from outbound marketing to inbound marketing

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Last week I delivered a talk at the Text 100 Digital Rising event in Port Dickson, Malaysia. I connected with Ben Edwards, VP Digital Strategy and Development at IBM who was also speaking at the event. I’ve known Ben since his days at the Economist – we were both based in Tokyo at one point (I was with Knight-Ridder at that time).

Ben spoke with me about the ongoing transformation at IBM from being a company primarily focused on outbound marketing to a social media and digital enabled inbound marketing powerhouse.

I've written before about IBM social computing guidelines, but I wanted to learn more. Here's a three-minute interview with Ben on the more than 200,000 IBMers involved in social media.

IBM has been spending many millions of dollars in traditional outbound marketing communications efforts. Ben cited the following:

-- 58,000 marketing activities
-- 8,500 events
-- 4.5 million people targeted with outbound marketing

He said they are now moving much of this resource into digital, which includes building the systems and infrastructure required to go from outbound marketing to inbound marketing.

Ben cited a report that says 96% of IT buyers say they use search in the buying process. And it is used throughout the entire buying process, not just at the top of the B2B sales cycle.

Amazingly, over half of 407,000 IBMers are connected socially because the company encourages them to engage. Ben said 200,000 are on LinkedIn and 200,000 on Facebook (of course there is some overlap). There are 30,000 on Twitter who have declared that they are IBMers in their profile.

"If the average person has 150 connections on their social pages, that's millions of connections," Ben says. "Imagine if IBM could mobilize that group of people. Imagine if people could excite loyalty and advocacy."

The challenge, according to Ben is: "Communicating through 407,000 IBMers is more complicated than working on logos and brochures."

The key, he says, is to engage with people based on how they define themselves. A shared belief is more important than things like job function or geography. And he cited a need to build marketing with digital as the core, not as an afterthought.

Note: My video camera stopped working in the middle of the interview with Ben. What I’ve learned from this is to ALWAYS check that I have enough battery power and storage space before I start to film!